“Satires” by Juvenal

Juvenal and Persius

[Warning: The following post contains coarse language, nudity and explicit sexuality. Reader’s discretion is strongly advised.]

Eppia, a Senator’s Wife

Oblivious of her home and husband and sister, she disregarded her fatherland and shamelessly deserted her wailing children and, what’s more amazing, Paris and the Games. But although as a little girl she had slept in great opulence on her family down in cradles with flounces, she scorned the sea. (Her reputation she’d scorned a long time ago. That’s the tiniest loss among these luxurious ladies’ litters.) And so with heart undaunted she endured the Tyrrhenian waves and the Ionian’s loud boom, although she had to pass from one sea to the next so many times. If the reason for the danger is right and honorable, women are afraid. Their hearts are frozen with terror and they can’t stand on their trembling feet. But they are feisty in matters of daring and disgrace. If it’s her husband who tells her to go, it’s hard to board a ship. That’s when the bilge water is sickening, that’s when the sky wheels round and round. But the woman who’s accompanying her lover has a strong stomach. The other one pukes all over her husband, but this one takes her food with the sailors and wanders all over the deck and enjoys handling rough ropes…. But he was a gladiator. That’s what makes them into Hyacinthuses. That’s what she preferred to her sons and her fatherland, to her sister and her husband. It’s the steel that they’re in love with.

Messalina

Take a look at the rivals of the gods, listen to what Claudius put up with. When his wife realized her husband was asleep, she would leave, with no more than a single maid as her escort. Preferring a mat to her bedroom in the Palace, she had the nerve to put on a nighttime hood, the whore-empress. Like that, with a blonde wig hiding her black hair, she went inside a brothel reeking of ancient blankets to an empty cubicle–her very own. Then she stood there, naked and for sale, with her nipples gilded, under the trade name of “She-Wolf”, putting on display the belly you came from, noble-born Britannicus. She welcomed her customers seductively as they came in and asked for their money. Later, when the pimp was already dismissing his girls, she left reluctantly, waiting till the last possible moment to shut her cubicle, still burning with her clitoris inflamed and stiff. She went away, exhausted by the men but not yet satisfied, and, a disgusting creature, with her cheeks filthy, dirty from the smoke of the lamp, she took back to the emperor’s couch the stench of the brothel.

Caesennia

By why does Caesennia’s husband swear that she’s the perfect wife? She brought him a million. For that amount [qualification for entry into the Senate], he’ll call her faithful. He’s not wasting away from Venus’ quiver or blazing from her torch. It’s the money that sets his flares alight, the arrows come from her dowry. Her freedom is paid for. She can flirt and reply to love letters all she likes in front of her husband. A wealthy woman who marries a greedy man is in effect single.

Cornelia Africana

She can be beautiful, graceful, wealthy, fertile she can display her ancient ancestors all around her colonnades, she can be more virginal than any of the Sabine women with dishevelled hair who stopped the war–a rare bird on this earth, exactly like a black swan–but who can stand a wife who is perfection itself? I’d rather, much rather, have Venustina than you Cornelia, mother of the Gracchi, if along with your great virtues you bring a haughty expression and if you count your triumphs as part of your dowry. Take away your Hannibal, please! And your Syphax, defeated in his camp! Out you go with your Carthage and all! “Please show mercy, Healer! Goddess, put down your arrows! The boys are innocent. It’s their mother you should shoot!” That’s what Amphion shouts, but the Healer draws his bow. That’s how Niobe buried her flocks of sons and their father too, for thinking herself more noble than the family of Latona and at the same time more prolific than the white sow of Alba. What comportment and what beauty is worth so much if she considers you forever in her debt? The fact is, there’s no pleasure in these rare and exalted advantages when the woman is spoiled by a pride that contains more aloes than honey. Who, actually, was ever so devoted that he wouldn’t loathe the wife he praises to the skies and hate her for seven hours of every twelve?

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